Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Making the season last! There is no right way.

The season is in full swing.  Christmas is just days away.  And here in the Gouge home it has been a month long festival that has captured our hearts and souls!

As our sons have gotten older, I have been incorporating new ideas and keeping old traditions alive to make the season last for more than just one day.  It seems the month flies by and I wanted to slow it down this year.

As we rolled along doing our own thing, I noticed on social media that all the various blog posts and memes began popping up about the "real reason for the season" and why we shouldn't buy our children lots of gifts, or have only so many gifts from Santa so others don't feel bad, and the list goes on.

I stood back and thought, but there is no "right" way to celebrate.  It is different for each family.  If you only want to do one gift, do it!!  If you do no gifts, that is awesome!  If you do 1000 gifts, more power to you.  If you say Jesus is the reason, run with it!  If you simply celebrate it as a time with family, that is wonderful! 

We're a hodge podge kind of family.  And I love that.  And when you look at our pictures of celebration, remember what you see isn't always "reality". 

Let me explain.  Yes we celebrate the Christmas story, but we choose not to be "reason for the season" kind of people.  Mainly because we like science here and let's face it.   Winter Solstice is really the reason the for season.  Christ's birth was put into this time as an official day for Christians to celebrate. 
Yes, we do Hanukkah even though we are not Jewish by birth.  But I teach our boys that our faith in Christ stems from the Jewish tradition. 
We do an advent countdown by reading a bible verse each night that has to do with the coming of Christ the Messiah and the boys get some kind of little trinket.
We drive around and look at all the lights and OOO and AHHH together.  We have tons of presents under our tree.  And our house all adorned. 

But don't let all that fool you.  Things are not always what they seem.  We are not rich, or even well off.  We are just a working family.  But I had the greatest childhood memories of Christmas because even though my mom was single for a long time, she always did Christmas in such a way that it was special every year.  And I learned from that and am passing it down.

Santa has not visited yet but the presents over flow.  But wait, what you don't realize is that there is not $1000s of dollars worth of gifts.  Many are small trinkets and dollar tree items.  But we wrap each gift making it special.  The small sqaure box is a $1 bowl from Target from the Planes movie that David loves so much. 
The flat square package is a $1 calendar from the Dollar Tree.  A Sponge Bob inspired theme that my boys will laugh at all year!

The rectangle package?  2 $1 books on Dinosaurs from Target.  The big package?  A shirt and starter skateboard from Sears for $10 total.    Items don't have to be great amounts of money to look beautiful and bring a smile to their faces.  Wrapping each thing, using boxes, and several different prints of paper make everything so festive.

The stockings?  Mainly Dollar Tree or Family Dollar Store items. 
Sure they do have a few "nicer" gifts.  But I saved, and bought early.  However, those are not needed and we feel blessed to be able to provide it this year.

But trust me, there have been years where it's been lean, and we even received help.  Those years were still so special because we read stories, made cookies, still looked at lights. 

In addition, what people don't see is what we've done to help others.  Which I don't really like talking about only because we feel our good deeds should be done in private.

So remember, just because there are tons of gifts under a tree on a picture posted on Facebook, please don't think that they are bragging.  You don't know the whole story.  And just because there is a picture posted with just one or two gifts don't assume that they have no money or that they are depriving their children.

No matter what traditions to you choose and do, just make it special for your family.  Let us not take our traditions and hold everyone else to them.  Make the holidays your own!  I know we are :)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remembering "9-11" through the eyes of a child and the lessons it teaches.

I've always been open with my children.  It's the way I was raised and I think it is a good thing to pass on.  Admittedly though today was on of those days where I was taken aback and for a fleeting moment, wished that I my children never had to know such hate in the world.

As most know because of news outlets, social media, conversation, and personal memories, it was the anniversary of '9-11'.  Indeed a heart wrenching day in history that still lingers.  It is a day that honestly I had not discussed with my children, as it has never come up to prompt discussion around them.
Today was the day that all changed.  As we pulled out of the YMCA parking lot, Aaron began telling me that tale as if I had never heard it.  I silently listened as he recounted the fateful day of 2 planes hitting two buildings called the Twin Towers "because they looked alike".  How people on the top floors did not make it out and how many died.  Followed by 'We shouldn't make fun of anyone.'

"Did you know that mom?  Some people were mean and now we have 9-11."

"Yes."  Such a small inadequate answer but my mind was full of thought.  I was silent for a long time after that.  Aaron stared out his window deep in his own thoughts for the rest of the trip home.  Eerily quiet compared to every other night.  

We arrived home, my mind still spinning, and truthfully my heart breaking as my youngest started this journey of realizing that sometimes people in the world are full of hate because of how they view life and the world.

As I prepared dinner Aaron was working fast and furious on something.  I saw him scribbling for a long time.  And then he came and said "Look at my picture of 9-11."
He turned it around and he began recounting the tale once more.  "People died mom."  He said sadly. 

And then David asked a question that really was at the crux of my own thoughts about how I wanted to share such information.

"Mom, why did the people fly planes into the Twin Towers?"

"Well," I paused for a moment thinking about how love and peace start with ourselves, "Do you know how you believe in Santa Claus and some people don't?"


He and Aaron both were staring at me and intently listening.  Sometimes a hard thing for a 6 and 7 year old!

"Do you get mad at them, and beat them up or call them names, or do mean things to them?"

"No" they both said.

"That's right, it is okay for you to believe in Santa just as it is okay for others to not believe.  BUT that doesn't mean we can be mean to someone because they believe differently.  The people who flew those planes into the Towers, believed one thing, but they thought that everyone should believe just like them and if they don't, they wanted to hurt them."

"Wow, that is not nice."  David said.  Aaron nodded in agreement.

"Exactly.  We all may believe in different things, and we can even think that we are right, but we are NEVER EVER mean to anyone else or tell them how wrong they are and that they should be hurt because of what they believe.  We should be peaceful and show love."

Then David asked another question that opened up the door for more great sharing, but tough at the same time.
"Is that why we say the pledge, because of 9-11?"

"Well, that's a hard one."  I began.  "You see, we should not be mean to anyone no matter where they live.  Because we believe in God, we want to choose to show love and be peaceful to all people all over the world because God does that for us.  The Pledge can mean different things to different people.  And it can mean you really like where you live here in America." 
It's a deep subject and tough to put it into a way that children can grasp and understand.  

"But 9-11 gives us a chance to show others that we can believe different things, and maybe not even agree with each other, yet we can still love each other.  Kind of like when tell me you want to watch TV but I tell you no because it's not good all the time.  You may be mad at mommy right?  But you still love me."

They both looked at me and then Aaron said "I wished no one died."  And then they were off to do whatever it is that little boys do.  

That said, the house has been fairly quiet tonight.  Both in somber type moods.  It is so hard to see them wrestle with such "adult" things so young.  Death, war, hate.  Something I wish my children never knew about.  

Equally it was tough to explain because I have a hard time myself with such concepts and terrible things.  When I think about 9-11 of course I think about that infamous day.  Yet it prompts something even more in me.

I don't share this often because when I have in the past I've been called "unpatriotic."  While I absolutely 100% think it was terrible what happened, I can't help but think "and equal horrors happen every single day in our world."

All such horrors should make us me equally sad, and make us me equally motivated to "be the change I wish to see in the world."

These 'horrors'.....

"The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that nearly 870 million people of the 7.1 billion people in the world, or one in eight, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012"

"More than five children die every DAY as a result of child abuse."

"More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way."

"Every two minutes in America someone is sexually assaulted." 

"The average number of ER visits in America for assault each year are 2 million."

The list could go on and on.  But the facts remain for me.  Horrors are everywhere, world wide, in our own back yard, in our own lives.  It's hard to focus on one day when all the days blend together in a stream of suffering, rage, hate, and blood shed.

I can not lie, sometimes it is hard for me to sleep at night when I begin thinking on such things.  Since I was a young child I remember being acutely aware of these horrors.  And I couldn't shake it.  Often I feel overwhelmed, like I should be doing something, yet having nothing to give.  

And I come full circle back to my children and think "what can I give them to help combat these horrors?"
The answers?  The teaching of love and peace.  It is not the be all to end all, but it IS a starting place to equip them, or a beginning in which to equip them to "be that change" as well.

Of course there is no simple black and white answers [or so I don't believe there are].  And there are many more thoughts swimming in my head.  But those thoughts are for another time.

All this said, to convey that though my heart breaks that my children to have learn of such things, my heart also rejoices that if they so choose, they can show that love and peace and slowly make a change, one person at a time.

Monday, July 7, 2014

I am not fair and I do deprive my children.

I am positive that my children feel this way often.  I am neither fair to them nor give them the things they "need".  I've heard it through their lamenting [aka: crying], through their loud voices [aka: yelling], through interpretive displays [aka: tantrums].  And their questions do not get the answers they deserve [aka: want to hear].  

I had one such encounter this past Sunday with my son David.  He came to me with a heavy sigh and the famous "Mom, I'm bored."  cry.  

The next thing I knew I was channeling my mother and I heard the words come out of my mouth, "Go read a book then."
I heard those words many times as a child.  As a side note, it stuck.  My love for reading grew.  I found my boredom would disappear as I entered worlds unexplored!  My mom took me several times monthly to our local public library.  I grew up loving it there.  Of course when you are young you don't really see the depth of it all.  Now looking back that was something she "gave" me that has made me "richer" than any material thing could. 

Back to David's boredom though.  Apparently the answer of reading a book was not acceptable as I heard a big fat "NO!  I'm bored.  I want to play video games."
My next idea. Hey go get the Leapster and play the games or watch the Bill Nye videos.

"MOM!  That is not video games.  I want to play the ones like I do at Bobby and Rebecca's."

Oh, I get it now.  He wants to play the Wii.  Something we do NOT have.  We have no other gaming systems aside from their Mobi-Go and Leapster.  And I am A-OK with that.

"Well I'm sorry David, we don't have a Wii.  You're Leapster is just fine.  If you don't want to play with that, go play with your Legos, or trains, or rescue center, or planes, or ride your bike......"

Really, such First World problems.  So many children with out and my children are truly wealthy.  I was frankly a little irritated now.  I like that he is making friends and plays at their home.  But I'm not a fan of sitting in front of video games with there is a perfectly good yard to play in.

Now, you would have thought the end was near because our home suddenly filled the sounds of lamenting [aka: super heavy crying]. 

Well now, this mom was really thinking about Bill Cosby's line by this time:  "I brought you into this world and I can take you out!"

Wow, the power of technology over a young mind.  I looked at him and said:  "I will tell you what David, since you are acting this way over a video game, you can rest assured that we absolutely will not be getting one in the forseable future."

At this point, the weeping and gnashing of teeth occurred and storm off into his room.  With a reappearance and "VIDEO GAMES ARE FUN!!"

To which I calmly replied: "Keep it up and you won't even go down to Bobby and Rebecca's for a long time.  Especially to play video games."

Cue slamming door.

In times like this I honestly think back to a mission trip I took about 16 years ago with a church I attended in Ohio.  We traveled to a remote village in Honduras.  A true poverty setting with literal fallen logs used as posts, and tarps as roofs, or one room wooden homes with no window panes and an outside make shift oven.  People were luckily to bath once a week in the river.  Many children had only one set of clothing, let alone ANY toys.  And many only ate a few times a week.  Heartbreaking and it left a lasting impression on me.

And here my own child is screaming about the injustices of not having a video game.

Was I sad for my child?

Absolutely.  I was sad that he doesn't understand yet how very "rich" he is.  I know he will one day.  We do talk about it quite a bit.

Perhaps one day we can take a trip like that together. 
I hope and pray that one day he does truly see that while have "things" can be nice.  It is not the important thing in life.  Loving others, loving your family, helping others ARE the important things.

So, yes in the Gouge home there are no game systems beyond the educational Leapsters.  Children do not have cell phones or tablets.  Yes, they are totally spoiled and have an old school TV in their room with a cheap DVD player for some of their movies and educational shows.  But they have certain times they can watch.  It's not a free for all.  They don't get every knew fad toy coming and going.  But yes they are spoiled because I can take them to Disney. 
I love that I *can* give them things and provide them with fun.

However, it touches me even more when they do "get it" and spend hours outside digging in the dirt, make believing as they play, and venturing into those unexplored worlds. 

Life is so much more than "things".  And if not giving my child everything that they want makes me unfair, then call me unfair.
I didn't have everything growing up.  But I did have love and that made all the difference!


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Cook without measuring!

It's been three months since I've begun changing my eating lifestyle habits once and for all!  The only thing that I have ever found that has worked is the low carb method.  However, it can be too limiting. 
Now I don't really fit into any category other than enjoying life while I still eat deliciously!

The basics of it?  Sugar, wheat, and processed carb free.
And it works!  In three months I've lost about 22 lbs and 1 dress size.  I have more energy [most of the time when the Fibromyalgia doesn't flare up], less stress on joints and I feel full!

So when I changed over, I knew my sweet tooth and my love of sinfully delicious food would not just disappear.  So I began to explore options that could be healthier.  And sometimes not so healthy.  I do use some sugar free items.  But I also love some stevia and monk fruit sweetener as well!

First, I adore bread!    And found that the sprouted grain line of breads did wonderful for me without having the carb impact that normal breads did.

I also began diving into the discovery of spelt, a very ancient grain, oat flour and almond flour.  And I must say, I am excited about the results!

Spelt made a wonderful yeasty roll, similar to the white yeasty wheat rolls.  Though with a dark appearance and robust flavor.  They are best hot out of the oven with melted butter!

I won't spend much time tonight on actual recipes, but I do want to start doing it.  This is more of an overview.

Second, I adore pizza!  And spelt made for a wonderful crust!  You can flavor it however you wish.  Generally I'll add garlic and Italian spices into the dough for that extra quick!
The result?  A cure for my pizza craving!

Next I have sweet tooth craving.  At Easter, I really wanted a pie.  However, regular wheat crust pies filled with processed sugars would KILL my eating lifestyle.

So this is where the sort of healthy, sort of not so healthy chemical part comes in!
I found that oat flour can make a simple and yummy crust!  Using fresh strawberries, a package of sugar free strawberry jello and a bit of monk fruit sweetner, I had my pie! 
Thank you oat flour grain! 

And last for today.  I have a huge love for pancakes and waffles!!  All my flours make for a great replacement! 
This weekend, I happen to use oat flour.  And this is where I had fun and didn't measure! :)

So the recipe looks something like this:

mainly oat flour

some pumpkin puree
almond milk
splash of seltzer water [to help it rise.  You can use baking soda too.]

all spice
monk fruit sweetner
Sugar free syrup
fresh or frozen fruit for topping

Mix and wallah, pumpkin pancakes! 

 So there you have it!  Sometimes you have to measure.  Other times, you don't.  Just have fun, be healthy [or somewhat healthy!] and enjoy the result!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Trading in Stark Reality glasses for a Rose Colored pair!

Lately, I have been looking at life with stark reality glasses.  Some days are like a beautiful painting.  Many details, brilliant colors, picturesque moments.  I treasure those, wishing I could capture that memory on a canvas to remind myself.  Remind myself of happy moments when the bleak moments come. 

And there in is the stark reality viewing.  Not just one thing, but a multitude of thoughts, actions, moments, situations where I have neither the answers nor the strength.

I am finding that parenting is becoming increasingly difficult, heartbreaking, and frustrating.  I have slowly begun to understand [since the births of our sons], how deep and unconditional this love is.  How there are not words, no paintings, nothing on this earth to describe what it is like to love your own child(ren).  Until you experience it.

Stark reality.  When you're pregnant no one really tells you how much parenting can really drain everything you have emotionally, physically, spiritually.  They may tell you the horror stories of birth.  But that's minor.  It's all about the love, the cuteness, the awe, the plethora of pictures, the kisses, the cuddles, the "first" this and that.

Never, is it told that some days you will feel helpless.  You will feel like screaming.  You will shed tears because each day is not filled love, light, awe, happiness, and "that" feeling.  Because life happens.  It gets in the way.  And you're off and running.

This is my life lately.  
Stark reality.
As David gets older it seems we do struggle more with his needs.  And that is half of it as you know.

With Aaron, he is his own person with his needs.  We are discovering that indeed he may have some needs that need attention as well.  And that is fine.
Never-the-less, it has still been quite tough for me.  He is strong willed, stubborn, angry at times, fearful and anxious at other times.  He is defiant, disobedient, and unwilling to bend or listen to any side but his own.  He is an extreme extravert who craves people around him all day.  He thrives and becomes engergized the more he is around others.  He is hands on, very touchy feely.  Very needy.

Cue, me, mother.  Introvert.  I need time to regroup.  Being around people constantly drains my energy.  I become 'touched out'.  And when I don't get space and time I begin to get moody, depressed, and angry. 

For the last 6 months, things with Aaron and myself have just come to a head. 
The first year in elementary school for Aaron has been such a contrast to the first year David had.

He has not adjusted well at all.  Normally four out of the five days end with a "straight face" in his school agenda.  Maybe one happy face.  He struggles with following directions, shouting out answers, touching others, talking, you name it!  
It came to a point where everything fun was taken from him.  No special TV shows, no outside play after school.  No fun outings with mom.
How is that really productive?
It's not.
And he's not understanding fully why.

I know he doesn't understand me.  And many times I don't understand my child.  Yes, I am admitting that.  To deny it, to say that no one ever feels that way, that no parent experiences this is just...a lie.  

I have found I don't even know myself anymore when it comes to Aaron.  I yell and scream.  I don't know how to get my message across to him anymore.  And in turn it just makes him angry and upset. 
I've walked away more times than I can count to go and cry by myself.  Every morning was a battle I dreaded.  Some days I wanted to just wake up, get ready for work, and slip out of the door so I didn't have to face the morning with him.

Yes, I admit that too.  Stark reality.  

And finally as the pressure has built and I shove my own feelings deep inside it becomes a volcano and erupts.  
Friday had to be the worst parenting day of my life.
The morning battle ensued.  I can't just walk out and go because ... life.  They have to go to school.  I have to work.  Things have to happen.  
My husband, God bless this man.  Is just looking at me wide eyed as I scream that I can't do this anymore.  I need help.  I am at my wit's end.  And this stark bleak reality reeks of lives that need to be put back on track with a new focus.

I go to work, I'm going through the motions, but just long to be anywhere but in my life at that time. 
Yes, stark reality.

Eric messages me and tells me he's giving me my birthday gift early, a weekend away to myself to do whatever I want.  And as you know, of course I chose Disney to escape reality.

But a wonderful thing began to happen while I had hours to myself, relaxing, breathing, being, praying...yes praying for guidance.
I thought about his schooling.  His teacher is wonderful.  And they are doing what they need and have to do.  And have little control on how things can be done.

But I began to realize, and this is such a sad and hard thing to say and admit, that I was looking at my child through this stark reality glasses.  The straight faces "made" him this trouble child, this naughty child.  It defined who he was....to me.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized, no he is not defined by a straight face.  He is not defined by losing a star because he shouted out an answer instead of raising his hand.
Yes, he doesn't follow directions all the time, he needs lots of prompting.  And we take responsibility for that.

However, learning, growing, and so forth are not a one size fits all mold.  He is defined by his own spirit.  Aaron wonderful, spirited, loving, kind, gentle, a helper, a seeker, a lover of people [a fisher of men?],a lover of life, and explorer, an artist.  He is so much more than what is written in an agenda and I needed to begin to see and understand that myself.  No one or nothing defines my child except himself and my love for him.

That was a huge start over the weekend.  Furthermore, I realized that I can not contain this wonderful gift of a child into a mold.  I realize there is not much of a choice for us currently on schooling and we are going the traditional route.  However, knowing more and more about early childhood education [which encompasses prekindergarten through kindergarten I realize that developmentally many of these children are not truly ready for the rigorous class that is kindergarten. 
Gone are the days or 2 recesses, we had more socialization growing up, but we learned the same things.  Personally I don't see this need and huge push so early.  This isn't Harvard or Yale.  This is kindergarten.

It should be fun.  But it is what it is.  It is a long day for a 5 year old.  6.75 hours of learning.  In other words, as shocking as this is.  I am no longer going to expect a perfect day or week full of happy faces.  Don't faint, I do believe I see some pearl clutching.

When developmentally 5 year old children have a typical attention span of 10-15 minutes [of true learning experience] at a time, pushing them further only does the opposite.  If he fidgets in his seat or gets up several times, he may be a child who needs that movement to learn. 
To say "you can't do that" inhibits that learning style.  To say you can't talk for 30 or 45 minutes to a 5 year old child is like asking the rain to stop mid-air while you finish up yard word.  To say don't touch, is to say don't learn by feeling. 
He is a child, he is my child.  He is unique just like every other child.  I don't expect him to be anything but himself.

If he shouts out an answer I'm going to be thankful that he's eager enough to learn.  Raising a hand would be nice, but it's not the end of the world if he doesn't. If he has to stand or fidget to work, I will be thankful that he has the health to do so.   I won't stress it anymore.  I won't stress those small things.

I can't.  That has already lifted a weight off of my shoulders.  And I know there are a million more miles to go.  And it's not a "they lived happily ever after" story.

But I do know that today I had more patience than I have in a long time.  I was able to handle a tantrum much easier with an escalation.  And I had a wonderful time just being with my son tonight as we got a hair cut and ate dinner together. 
See, there are those beautiful moments that seem like a painting!

Wait a moment as I slip on my rose colored glasses...
That's better.  
Yes, I think I will put away my stark reality pair for awhile.  Rose colored makes the day a little brighter!